Astro Pitching: Cincy's Series (April 5-7)

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Brett Myers comes through in the clutch Friday to save the little optimism that some had left in the Astros. The series was ugly, but there are positives and negatives to take away. Let’s take a look:

Lyon was in control this series against the Reds (picture courtesy of SFGate.com)

Firstly, we will go more in depth with the starters. No one is going to watch the tape from this series for encouragement for the future outside of Myers, but keep in mind that the season is young. Brett pitched Friday, and he sure picked up where he left off on opening day in Philly. Becoming the first Astro starter to eclipse the 100 pitch mark, Myers threw 6 1/3 innings against the Reds with his trademark “give up hits, not runs” mentality. Surrendering 6 hits and 3 walks, Myers worked with men on the bases throughout most of the game, but only had two of those runners cross home for the Reds only two runs on the day. Improving his season ERA to 2.03, Brett will see the Cubbies next week and look to continue his great start to the 2011 season.

On to Happ and Figgy. Ugh. It pains me to even revisit their starts; it really does.  J.A. Happ walked two runs in Tuesday during the 4 inning shalacking he received from Cincy. His control was just not there, allowing 5 walks and 7 hits, but the 5 walks is what is so discouraging. Teams will rally and have innings where they just cannot get out, but allowing free passes with the bases loaded… twice? Happ couldn’t get the ball over the plate, even when he wanted too, so there is just not much you can take away from this start other than that his injury may still be bothering him or that he just needs more time to get ready for the season (which is inexcusable as a profession).

Figueroa was just as ugly, but it only stings worse due to the fact he relinquished a 4-0 Astro lead. Giving up TEN RUNS (only 6 earned, though) in 5 1/3 innings, Figgy decided to be a little more creative than Happ and allow 11 hits to be recorded off of his lack luster effort. Sure, there were strange occurrences like the Towles throw bouncing off of Hernandez’s bat, but you can’t make up an excuse for 10 hits. And the error that allowed the runs to be unearned, you ask? From Nelson’s own misfire to first! That was the most innovative way I have seen someone avoid runs in years, but still, the loss hurts due to him blowing the 4 run cushion.

The starters finished with a line of 16IP, 24H, 9BB, 15ER, 19R, 8K, and one HR allowed. An over all ERA of 8.62 is just pathetic, but impressive when coupled with a 2.11 WHIP. Look for the back end of the rotation to reduce its hits and walks allowed, or else we may need to get use to winning every fifth day when Brett takes the mound.

The relievers, on the other hand, had themselves an impressive series. Their line of 9 1/3 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 3 ER/R, 6 Ks, and 0 homers allowed made me feel a little less insane for claiming that they would be the key to our success this year. The only runs allowed came from Astro new comers Enerio Del Rosario and Aneury Rodriguez. Rodriguez has allowed a run in each of his 3 appearances, and has yet to impress, so I would expect the rule 5’er to not pitch until we are ahead or down by a large margin in order for him to feel out his game. If he doesn’t straighten it out, Rowland-Smith may waltz his way back on to the roster.

Fernando Abad collected the Astro’s first win of the year and of his career while Lyon picked up his first save after appearing once before in the series in a non save situation. Mark Melancon leads the team in appearances with 4, and he added two more this series with his 1 2/3 IP this series.

Seeing Lyon work around the trouble that he created in the 9th Friday was the most encouraging of all the pitching efforts this week. The two hits he allowed were not hard hit balls (neither were they hard hit balls against Philly), but he was able to get the infield to make some plays in order for him to preserve the Astro win. If he is going to trot out there in a one run game for us this season, we will need more appearances like the one today: avoiding the string-hit theory of one leading to another.

What is also interesting is that Lopez did not make an appearance in the final game on Friday. With the lead in hand, Mills went with Melancon, Abad, and Lyon to keep the win tucked away as opposed to going with Lopez. Perhaps it was to keep him fresh for the Florida series since he will be the only reliever to have only pitched in two games this year, but you have to wonder if something is up. I assume it is nothing, but let’s hope he is used Friday if we are in the lead because his stuff is what helps teams win ball games.

Next series, against Florida, look for the Stros starters to pick up after Myers lead and for the bull pen to remain hot. In the mean time, enjoy the first win of the season!

Trevor Harris is a contributing writer for Climbing Tal’s Hill. Click here to follow him on Twitter and click here to follow CTH.

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Tags: Aneury Rodriguez Brandon Lyon Brett Myers Cincinnati Reds Enerio Del Rosario Fernando Abad Houston Astros J.A. Happ Jeff Fulchino Mark Melancon Nelson Figueroa Wilton Lopez

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